As U.S.-led troops gained a controlling presence in Baghdad, Americans overwhelmingly express their support for the military action and approval for how the war in Iraq is being conducted, with a sizeable majority saying it was an "excellent plan, and well executed."

The latest FOX News poll, conducted April 8-9 by Opinion Dynamics Corporation, shows strong support continues for the military action in Iraq, and also shows tremendously positive views of how well the war is going for the United States and its allies.

A clear majority (81 percent) supports, 68 percent "strongly" support, the military action in Iraq. The partisan gap remains wide, with 95 percent of Republicans in support of the war compared to 66 percent of Democrats, but the gender gap on support is only four percentage points (83 percent of men and 79 percent of women).

Polling was conducted on the night troops moved aggressively into Baghdad and on the night after it became clear the allies had gained greater, if not total, control of the city. There were only a few small variations between results from the first and second nights. Most notably, on the second night more people report watching more hours of news coverage, and the number of people who feel Iraq is our major enemy dropped.

Most Americans (82 percent) approve of how the war is being conducted, up from 76 percent at the end of the first week of fighting. Approval is more than twice as great among war supporters — 92 percent of those who support action approve of the way the war is being conducted, while only 41 percent of opponents approve.

Almost all (92 percent) think the war is going well for the United States and coalition allies, with 64 percent saying the war is going "very well," up from 37 percent in mid-March. In addition, a 69 percent majority says the military's war plan was excellent and well executed. Seven percent say it was an excellent plan, but "poorly executed," and only 12 percent think military leaders had a "weak plan."

President Bush's overall job approval rating climbed to 71 percent, up five percentage points since the beginning of the war and up 11 points since before the war. On his handling of the situation with Iraq, 75 percent approve and 19 percent disapprove. The "rally" effect seems to be missing when it comes to the president's rating on the economy, as 48 percent approve and 40 percent disapprove of his job performance managing the nation's economy.

"While the president is clearly strong," comments Opinion Dynamics President John Gorman, "there is a cautionary note in the poll. Fifty-one percent of the respondents say President Bush did not tell the American people 'everything they needed to know' about the costs of the war before it started. This suggests that while pleased how this seems to be turning out, Americans may have reservations about future actions."

So far, there has been no official word on the success of U.S. airstrikes Monday which targeted a Baghdad location where it was believed Saddam Hussein and his sons were meeting. Even so, more than four times as many Americans (18 percent) think Saddam is dead today than thought so two weeks ago. Another 18 percent think Saddam is alive and injured, and 31 percent think he is alive and well (down from 48 percent in mid-March), with the remaining 33 percent unsure. If the former Iraqi leader is alive, a 47 percent plurality thinks he is still in Iraq, but 41 percent think Saddam has left Iraq and is hiding in another country.

The media's approval rating has dipped slightly since the first week of the war, with just over half (52 percent) now saying they approve of the way newspapers and television stations are reporting on the war, down from 56 percent, and 39 percent disapprove, up from 33 percent two weeks ago.

A third of Americans (33 percent) think reporters at press briefings have been too eager to paint a negative picture of how the war is going, slightly more than say reporters have been too eager to paint a positive picture of the military’s progress (28 percent).

The public is spending somewhat less time now in front of the tube than during the early days of action. During the first week of fighting, the average amount of time Americans reported watching or listening to war coverage was about three hours a day, and now that has dropped to an average of two and a half hours per day. Even so, over half (55 percent) say they spend at least two hours each day paying attention to war news. As noted, the number watching more hours of coverage was higher on the second night of polling than on the first.

War commentary by retired military officers has been ubiquitous for several weeks now.  While over a third of Americans (36 percent) think it is appropriate for these retired officers to criticize and question the current military operations, nearly six in 10 (57 percent) tend to agree more with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Gen. Richard Myers — both of whom recently expressed annoyance with "armchair generals" for second-guessing Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Somewhat similar results are seen when respondents were asked about comments by Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry. Recently the Massachusetts senator, playing off the language being used about Saddam Hussein, said, "we need a regime change in the United States." Some (32 percent) consider this just a typical campaign statement, and a few volunteered their agreement with Kerry (five percent), but half (51 percent) say the candidate’s statement is a "sign of poor judgment during wartime."

Reconstruction Ahead

Fully 77 percent of Americans say they are very (36 percent) or somewhat (41 percent) confident the U.S.-led coalition can successfully help Iraq set up a democracy, and a slim majority (54 percent) says the U.S. coalition would do a better job setting up Iraq’s interim government than the United Nations would (36 percent).

Most (79 percent) say failure to enforce Resolution 1441, which required Iraq to prove it did not have certain weapons programs, damaged the credibility of the United Nations, including half (51 percent) who think the U.N. has been damaged "a lot."

More than half of Americans are so pleased with the support of British Prime Minister Tony Blair that 57 percent favor giving him the Congressional Gold Medal, as Florida Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite, R-Fla., has suggested in House legislation introduced this week.

Britain is also seen by most Americans (81 percent) as the "best friend" of the United States today. The next closest is Canada at three percent. At the other end of the spectrum, North Korea is seen as the country’s "worst enemy" by 39 percent, followed by Iraq (22 percent), France (seven percent) and China (five percent).

Polling was conducted by telephone April 8-9, 2003 in the evenings. The sample is 900 registered voters nationwide with a margin of error of ± 3 percentage points. Results are of registered voters, unless otherwise noted.

1. Do you approve or disapprove of the job George W. Bush is doing as president?

  Approve Disapprove (DK)
8-9 Apr 03 71% 20 9
25-26 Mar 03 66% 24 10
11-12 Mar 03 60% 32 8
25-26 Feb 03 55% 33 12
11-12 Feb 03 57% 32 11
29-30 Jan 03 59% 28 13

2. In your everyday conversations with friends and neighbors, what topic would you say comes up most often these days? (OPEN ENDED)

  8-9 Apr03 29-30 Jan03 3-4 Dec02 24-25 Sep02
Iraq/Saddam Hussein 65% 42% 13% 13%
9/11 /Terrorism/War on Terror 9 3 16 12
Economy 5 19 22 9
Family issues 3 5 7 5
Work/Jobs/Employment 3 5 6 3
Politics/Political issues 2 3 4 5
Weather 2 2 2 2
Education/Schools 1 3 3 3
Sports 1 2 3 2
Local issues 1 1 3 1
Religion/Bible 1 1 1 1
Health Care - 2 2 2
Stock market/Finances/Money - 1 3 2
Current events/World news - 1 2 3
Taxes - 1 1 1
Elderly/Social Security - - 1 -
Middle East - - 1 2
Drugs/Crime - - - 1
Other/Nothing 1 3 6 5
(DK/Ref) 6 6 4 28

3. Do you approve or disapprove of the job George W. Bush is doing handling the situation with Iraq?

  Approve Disapprove (Don’t know)
8-9 Apr 03 75% 19 6
25-26 Mar 03 69% 23 8
11-12 Feb 03 50% 38 12

4. Do you approve or disapprove of the job President Bush is doing managing the economy?

  Approve Disapprove (Don't know)
8-9 Apr 03 48% 40 12
3-4 Dec 02 47% 40 13
24-25 Sep 02 52% 36 12
23-24 Jul 02 55% 37 8
4-5 Jun 02 62% 28 10
30 Apr-1 May 02 64% 29 7
9-10 Jan 02 59% 27 14
6-7 Jun 01 52% 29 19
28-29 Mar 01 52% 27 21

5. Would you favor or oppose giving British Prime Minister Tony Blair a Congressional Gold Medal for his support of U.S. policies on Iraq?

1. Favor 57%
2. Oppose 26
3. (Not sure) 17

6. Do you support or oppose the United States taking military action to disarm Iraq and remove Iraqi President Saddam Hussein? Is that strongly (support/oppose) or only somewhat (support/oppose)?

  --- Support --- --- --- Oppose ---
  TOT Strngly Smwht TOT Smwht Strngly (Not sure)
8-9 Apr 03 81% 68 13 16 6 10 3
25-26 Mar 03 78% 66 12 18 8 10 4
11-12 Mar 03*** 71% 54 17 20 6 14 9
25-26 Feb 03 71% 51 20 24 9 15 5
11-12 Feb 03 69% 51 18 23 10 13 8

*** From Oct 2002 to March 2003, " Do you support or oppose U.S. military action to disarm Iraq and remove Iraqi President Saddam

7. Do you approve or disapprove of the way the war against Iraq is being conducted?

  Approve Disapprove (Don't know)
8-9 Apr 03 82% 12 6
25-26 Mar 03 76% 15 9

8. How would you rate the military plan for the war in Iraq? Would you say it was:

1. An excellent plan, and well executed, 69%
2. An excellent plan, but poorly executed, 7
3. A weak plan, but well executed, or 7
4. A weak plan, and a poorly executed one? 5
5. (Not sure) 1
6. (Other) 11

9. How well do you think the war with Iraq is going for the United States and coalition allies?
SCALE: 1. Very well 2. Somewhat well 3. Not very well 4. Not at all well 5. (Not sure)

  Vry Smwht Ntvry Not at all (Not sure)
8-9 Apr 03 64% 28 3 1 4
25-26 Mar 03 37% 46 9 2 6

10. Do you think military action in Iraq will be over in weeks, months, a year, or is the end more than a year away?

  Weeks Months Year More than a year (Not sure)
8-9 Apr 03 23% 40 13 16 8
25-26 Mar 03 17% 53 10 11 9

11. Do you believe Iraqi President Saddam Hussein is dead, alive but injured or alive and well?

  Dead Injured Alive and well (Not sure)
8-9 Apr 03 18% 18 31 33
25-26 Mar 03 4% 32 48 16

12. If Saddam Hussein is alive, do you think it is more likely that he is still in Iraq or he is hiding in another country?

1. Still in Iraq 47%
2. Hiding in another country 41
3. (Not sure) 12

13. Do you think the United States and coalition forces can declare victory even if weapons of mass destruction are never found?

1. Yes 62%
2. No 25
3. (Already found) 4
4. (Not sure) 9

14. Do you think President Bush told the American people everything they needed to know about the potential costs of the war in Iraq before it started?

1. Yes 43%
2. No 51
3. (Not sure) 6

15. Do you think it is appropriate or inappropriate for retired military officers to criticize the judgment of current military leaders and question how military operations are being conducted?

1. Appropriate 36%
2. Inappropriate 57
3. (Not sure) 7

16. Overall, do you approve or disapprove of the way newspapers and television channels have been reporting on the war in Iraq?

  Approve Disapprove (Don't know)
8-9 Apr 03 52% 39 9
25-26 Mar 03 56% 33 11

17. During press briefings on the war in Iraq, do you think reporters have been:

1. Too eager to paint a negative picture of how the war is going, or 33%
2. Too eager to paint a positive picture of how the war is going? 28
3. (Neither) 14
4. (Depends) 14
5. (Not sure) 11

18. How many hours a day would you say you watch or listen to news coverage of the war? (Open)

Hours Per Day    
  (<1) (1) (2) (3-5) (6-10) (10+) (Not sure) Mean
8-9 Apr 03 18% 26 23 23 6 3 1 2.51 hours
25-26 Mar 03 2% 32 26 26 9 4 1 3.03 hours

19. Recently Democratic Senator and presidential candidate John Kerry made the following comment: "What we need now is not just a regime change in Saddam Hussein and Iraq, but we need a regime change in the United States." Do you think Sen. Kerry’s comment is:

1. Just a typical campaign statement or 32%
2. A sign of poor judgment during wartime? 51
3. (Vol: Kerry was right to say it) 5
4. (Neither) 2
5. (Not sure) 10

20. Who do you think would do a better job of setting up an interim government in Iraq?

1. The U.S. and British coalition 54%
2. The United Nations 36
3. (Not sure) 10

21. How confident are you that the U.S.-led coalition can successfully help Iraq set up a democracy?

1. Very confident 36%
2. Somewhat confident 41
3. Not very confident 12
4. Not at all confident 5
5. (Not sure) 6

22. How much do you trust the Pentagon to tell the whole truth about the U.S. military's progress in the war with Iraq?

  A lot Some Not much Not at all (Not sure)
8-9 Apr 03 26% 42 16 12 4
25-26 Mar 03 28% 43 14 10 5

23. Which country do you think is the worst enemy of the United States today? (OPEN)

(North Korea) 39%
(Iraq) 22
(France) 7
(China) 5
(Russia) 2
(Syria) 2
(Afghanistan) 2
(Iran) 1
(Germany) -
(Other) 4
(Dk/Ref) 16

24. Which country do you think is the best friend of the United States today? (OPEN)

(UK/England) 81%
(Canada) 3
(Spain) 1
(Australia) 1
(Mexico) 1
(France) 1
(Germany) 1
(Other) 2
(Dk/Ref) 9

25. When the war in Iraq is over, do you think the countries that opposed military action, such as France and Germany,

1. Will try to repair relations with the U.S. or 50%
2. Will they wait for the U.S. to make the first move? 37
3. (Not sure) 13

26. Do you think American tourists should make a special effort to travel to those countries that supported the United State on Iraq, such as Spain and Britain instead of the countries that opposed the United States, such as France and Germany?

1. Yes 61%
2. No 29
3. (Not sure) 10

27. In November, the United Nations passed Resolution 1441 that required Iraq to prove it does not have chemical, biological and nuclear weapons programs. How much do you think failure to enforce Resolution 1441 has damaged the credibility of the United Nations?

1. A lot 51%
2. Some 28
3. Not much 8
4. Not at all 6
5. (Not sure) 7